Who Are These Guys?

Any discussion about who or what is to blame for the Twins bringing up the rear of the AL Central Division this year would eventually get around to focusing on the bullpen. It has, to be frank, been a bit of a mess.

(photo: Foxsportsnorth.com)

But if you want to know what’s led to this little hot streak the team has been riding in June, the answer is arguably the same… the bullpen.

Yes, I know… Matt Capps coughed up a one-run lead with two out in the bottom of the 9th inning Wednesday afternoon when Jack Hannahan took him yard. That’s frustrating and I’m not saying Capps or any of his bullpen buddies deserve their own statues on Target Plaza, but if you haven’t been paying attention, you might not realize that was the first run… earned or otherwise… that the Twins bullpen has given up this month.

The Twins are 6-2 in June and even those two losses (June 1 to Detroit and Tuesday to Cleveland) couldn’t be pinned on the bullpen.

Over the course of the eight games the Twins have played this month, seven different pitchers have appeared out of the pen, throwing a total of 18 innings. They’ve given up eight hits and walked nine hitters (which is a bit high, but the combination of hits and walks is still good enough for a 0.944 WHIP, which is pretty fair). They’ve also struck out 10 hitters.

Capps reminded us today that these guys are still human and I’m not suggesting that eight solid games of relief pitching make up for all the melt downs we endured in April and May, but it does demonstrate how much difference a competent bullpen makes to a team’s success in the win column.

It’s been fun watching the top and bottom of the order zip around the bases and score a few runs, but let’s be honest… the hitting still is not where it needs to be if the Twins are going to make the rest of the season truly interesting. But the starting pitching has continued to be relatively consistent and if the bullpen can continue to pitch well, maybe we’ll all have a little more fun yet this season after all.

And if it turns out they return to their suckage, well, at least they’ll have more time to prepare to represent the US in the seven man bobsled event at the next Winter Olympics (what? there ISN’T a seven-man bobsled event? dang) If you can’t get the imbedded video to work (and haven’t seen any of the 482 times it’s run on local and national television this week), click here to watch it… the still picture doesn’t do it justice.

There’s been a lot of chatter about the various “skits” these guys have been entertaining fans (and, themselves) with before games. Some people don’t like it. I’m good with it, though. They’re putting in their work and getting the job done on the field this month. Having a little of fun before the game keeps them loose and builds bullpen chemistry. There’s nothing wrong with that.

- JC